From food truck to museum restaurant: Luxembourg chef and passionate, self-taught entrepreneur Fabrizio Annicchiarico gives an insight into his experiences with vegan cuisine.
You could try putting him in a box, but it would be a hard job as he’d be out of there in no time! Because if there’s one thing that Fabrizio Annicchiarico values, it’s freedom and individuality. No surprise really, given he himself is a real one-off. You could say he’s a bit like marmite: vegan, and you either love him or you don’t. “I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine,” he says with a smile. He’s an expressive, passionate man. And not just in the kitchen. He loves life, people and their stories.
“Never work in catering!”
“I grew up in my parents’ kitchen – they had a pizzeria in Luxembourg City’s Eich district. They were constantly telling me: ‘Never work in catering!’” And he didn’t. At least at first he didn’t… Because Annicchiarico knows his own mind and likes to do his own thing. “I heeded their advice for a long time. I too wanted to be of service to people; it’s what I was taught from an early age. So, I worked as a financial advisor and also as an estate agent. I drove a big, flashy car and sold houses worth millions to clients who would never even set foot in them.”
Life took its course and he started a family. When his first child was born, he began to take more of an interest in what he was eating. A second child arrived, and a few years later, Annicchiarico had his light bulb moment: This wasn’t the life he wanted to live. These weren’t the values he believed in. Something had to change. “I couldn’t see what kind of future I could offer my children leading this kind of life,” he says.
“Cooking was my therapy”
So, at the age of 38, Annicchiarico set sail for forbidden waters. “For quite some time, I’d been feeling the need to switch off in the evenings after work and escape the everyday grind. And so I turned to cooking. Just like other people go to therapy.” Using his hands, doing what he loved, made him feel free. With the support of his wife (now ex-wife and business partner), he began a new life. “I was 38 and didn’t want to go down the traditional catering training route, especially because I was a vegetarian by then. So, I started out making fast food for happy hours in bars. I then had a food truck selling vegetarian dishes, in particular at festivals, on a mission to bring the delights of vegetarian cuisine to the masses!”
“I taught myself everything”
Annicchiarico went on to launch his vegan home catering service and to host cookery shows in the town of Dudelange. In 2019, he finally opened his own restaurant, Oak, near the town’s train station. “I worked in the kitchen, but also front of house, which allowed me to share my passion with diners. We had 20 covers. It was good, it was healthy, it was friendly. I taught myself everything…” he says. He falters, visibly emotional, remembering the painful loss of his father, who “died suddenly, from one day to the next, in his sleep.” That was twenty years ago now, but for the chef, now a father himself, it feels like only yesterday. “It just makes me think. I need to start taking it easier…,” he admits.
The pure. experience
When the COVID pandemic hit, it hit the young restaurateur – like so many other business owners – hard. He hung on and never gave up on his dream. Until the day “a customer came to Oak with the director of Mudam, Luxembourg’s museum of modern art. A few months later, on 21 June 2022, I opened pure. in Mudam. It’s been a real career boost for me. I’ve gone from doing around 7,000 servings a year to almost 25,000. If you do the maths, that’s 8,000 animals that weren’t born solely to be killed for food and over 33 million litres of water saved [more than 13 Olympic swimming pools]…. That’s when you say to yourself: You’re making a difference; you’re staying true to your values.”
So, what’s next for the chef? “pure. was a great experience, but I now want to transfer these values to a more traditional restaurant.”
And so the passionate vegan chef is leaving the Kirchberg district for new culinary adventures, “after a short break”. Stay tuned.